Auburn panhandler has criminal history

AUBURN — His name is John Stevens, he's 43 and homeless since a fire destroyed his Augusta apartment last March. And though his driver's license is suspended and he's without car insurance, he commutes 62 miles a day to panhandle near the Burger King off Mount Auburn Avenue.

John Stevens holds up his sign that he uses when panhandling.

Jose Leiva/sun journal

John Stevens of Augusta accepts a donation from a woman at the entrance of the Auburn Wal-Mart on Wednesday. Stevens, who has an extensive criminal record and has served time in prison, has sought money from passing motorists there, from time to time, for months.

He's also a convicted sex offender and a felon, though you wouldn't know it from his sign soliciting help.

"They booted me out of Augusta," Stevens said Wednesday as he solicited donations from passers-by. "I got two different tickets out of two different towns, Waterville and Topsham. This is the only place I can go and the cops don't bother me."

Sgt. Christopher Shaw of the Augusta Police Department said Wednesday that Augusta has no specific ordinance against panhandling, but police have been charging panhandlers around the Wal-Mart and Marketplace shopping centers with trespassing at the request of store owners. Police had received a number of complaints about the growing number of panhandlers there, including a complaint about one man who had a roll of several hundred dollars, all $20 bills, on him when he was charged.

Augusta police never charged Stevens with trespassing, and had no record of any contact with him panhandling in Augusta.

Stevens was convicted in 1997 in Kennebec
County Superior Court of unlawful sexual contact. He was sentenced to serve four years, with all four years
suspended. His victim was under 14 years old. According
to the Maine State Bureau of Identification, he is considered a
sexually violent predator as a result of that conviction.

According to the Maine Sex Offender Registry, his permanent address
as of Sept. 3, 2009, was an apartment at 382 Water St.,
Augusta.

"It's a motel place, and we stayed there because I have a friend
there that kinda stays there," Stevens said Wednesday. "I have to have a permanent address." 

He asked that his sex-offender status not be reported "because I would really get in problems with people up here if they had
any idea. I ain't no pervert and I don't chase children."

Stevens' criminal record includes three felony convictions,
including a burglary conviction in 1986 when he was sentenced to serve
three years in jail, with all but 90 days suspended, the 1997 sex
conviction and a conviction in 1988 for unlawful trafficking in
scheduled drugs and theft by unauthorized taking. He was sentenced to
serve five years in prison on the 1988 charges, concurrent with
sentences for convictions of misdemeanor assault, burglary and theft.
He also has 14 misdemeanor convictions, including convictions for theft, assault, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, his license to drive is under suspension indefinitely following an accident in Augusta in early October after he was unable to provide proof of insurance. Stevens' license has been suspended four times before the most recent suspension.

His Maine driving record includes seven convictions for speeding violations between 2001 and 2009, and convictions for failure to yield right of way, operating after suspension, littering from a motor vehicle, violation of Maine's seat belt law, improper passing, hitchhiking and failure to obey a traffic signal.

According to a Kennebec Journal report, Stevens leaped from the second floor of his burning apartment building at 62 Chapel St. in Augusta last March, and was caught by two police officers as he hit the ground. The cause of the fire was later determined to be an aging electric pencil sharpener left on in another apartment while the tenant was away.

Jerry Fleury, the building's owner, said Stevens and his wife had been renting the apartment for about five months before the fire. They lived there with their two cats, and had no children. Fleury said Stevens had a bad back and was not employed when he lived at the Chapel Street building.

Fleury remembered seeing Stevens panhandling at the Augusta Wal-Mart for months after the fire, but then he disappeared. Early this week, Fleury drove to Auburn to shop at The Home Depot and was surprised to see Stevens panhandling on Mount Auburn Avenue with the same sign he used to panhandle in Augusta for six months.

Stevens, who has appeared in at least one local television news cast, recently called the Sun Journal to publicize his story.

"My wife gets paid bi-weekly," he said, adding that he can't work because he's disabled. "She don't make enough so we can get into an apartment. It kills me to be up here (asking for money)."

He said he's been fighting more than two years to get disability payments and has been denied multiple times. He's now waiting to go before a judge. He's also on pain medications and said he argues with the state all the time "because they won't pay for them."

Of the panhandling, Stevens said it was "better than stealing."

"I could be out thieving and stuff and probably make more money, but I can't do it with my back," he said, pocketing nearly $30 during the 20-minute interview.

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Audrey Alcala's picture

queenhoneybee, I too am a

queenhoneybee, I too am a survivor, but I have no compassion for child molester or
any other one. This guy had a nerve to ask the SJ not to mention he was a pedophile and that he wasn't a pervert. Well you know what buddy... you are a pervert!!! You sexually assaulted a child!! Whether you did it once or ten times, you're a child molester! this guy claims he can't work due to back problems but he can stand and beg for money hours on end every day? He should be chased out of Auburn too! he's a distraction for one. how do all of that give him money even know what he uses it for?

ROGER COUTURIER's picture

With all of the legitimate

With all of the legitimate charities in need today how can people waste their hard earned money with this low life. In the article he admits that he would steal instead of panhandleing but he is unable to steal due to his disabilities. What credibility! Folks, give your excess money to United Way, Salvation Army, the Good Shepherd food pantry, St. Martin de Pores, etc, etc,etc, but not to this guy from Augusta. Come on, society is getting too tolerant with those who choose to screw the good hearted! He should stay in Augusta but apparently they don't want him there either!

 's picture

I am glad that this article

I am glad that this article was published. I have also got a "creepy" vibe from this guy - it makes me uncomfortable that he can stand there like that and I had hoped that he would have been asked to move on by now by the stores and/or police. Whether or not he has a disability or mental illness, he doesn't belong panhandling and causing traffic distractions at a busy intersection. I do hope that he gets the help he needs through the appropriate channels, but I do not support what he is doing to make money. What is to stop anyone from standing around doing this if one person is allowed to? I am also unhappy to hear that he is a convicted sex offender and has a substantial criminal record. I am betting that his hand out days are over in this neck of the woods!

George Fogg's picture

Typical of todays

Typical of todays lay-a-bouts. Scamming the system instead of trying to do an honest days work. And our system lets them get away with it. The police should nail him for driving w/o a licence and the IRS for not reporting his money from donations.

We have let our system create a mess where there are more in the wagon than pulling it. How long do you think that will last?

Kathy Barker's picture

I think I've seen him at the

I think I've seen him at the new Bangor Walmart too!!!!!!!

Jan Bachelder's picture

since I don't read the

since I don't read the entire paper, I appreciate this being on the front page. I would not have stopped to give him anything, not because I don't give to those less fortunate than myself, but because I support the systems of the United Way, the Salvation Army and Good Shepard food bank. That way I am confident that my money is going for a real cause and not just to line someones pockets.

Heather Costa's picture

"I could be out thieving and

"I could be out thieving and stuff and probably make more money, but I can't do it with my back," he said, pocketing nearly $30 during the 20-minute interview. - I don't know I am thinking 90$ an hour is pretty good cash. Tax free too! Its too bad I have dignity or I just might make myself a sign too!

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Scott Thistle We just

Scott Thistle

We just thought it would make sense to have a conversation for people who want to give and how they can do so with the confidence to know their donation will go to a legitimate cause. Hopefully some people will find that informative and useful. We have guests from the Salvation Army and the United Way joining us.

Please join the conversation at noon.

  http://www.sunjournal.com/node/427483

 

Tim Lajoie's picture

A couple of problems with

A couple of problems with this statement
1. he is not on walmart property he is on city property, walamrt does not tolerate panhandling, its hard enough for organizations to get permission to do that, and i have seen them kick people out with political petitions.
2. This man is choosing not to use social programs available to him, unfairly demonizing him? he is a convicted sex offender he doesn't "live" in the area so its not like the SJ can put him on the sex offender alert for the paper
3. no place in the article did the reporter claim to be a seerer into the future, or predict is future crime, it is interesting how augusta still feels he is a threat though

Thank you sunjournal for posting this for all to view!

Stephen Bolduc's picture

After reading the many

After reading the many comments here, I have a couple of comments myself.
1) A majority of you are ready to throw him under the train, or bus, or whatever is the most convienient for crimes which he was already been convicted of and served a sentence for. Don't you all realize that he payed for his crimes according to the law.
2.) I'd like to know how many of the posters are Christians. By the tone of the comments, I'd say NONE, but my intuition says otherwise. Makes me proud to be an atheist.
3) Read "Les Miserables", this person sounds like he should be named Jean Valjean.
4.) This one is most important, and has been my opinion for a long time. Many of you seem to have all the answers to all of our societal problems, too bad some of you wouldn't run for public office and use your self-stated expertise to change the way things a done.

I know I'll get lambasted for my views, but I just take the comments from hence they come, mostly from BEMs.

Nancy Young's picture

PP----do you know these

PP----do you know these things for sure in your 3 continuous statements? No, you don't. If you did, you would be on a cop show as a psychic and getting paid big bucks. No matter what this guy has done and, in the eyes of the law, has paid for, you don't know he will reoffend. How many "little" illegal things have you done in your lifetime and not gotten caught? None of us are perfect. He may not be anyone's favorite person or citizen of the year, but he could have sent troops into a war we shouldn't be in, causing thousands of American deaths and gotten paid millions of dollars to be called Mr. President....extremely guilty, but legal. What's worse?

Denisa Laflamme's picture

OMG...please dont publicize

OMG...please dont publicize my sex offender status???? Is this boy wacked or what....I think that Auburn PD needs to serve him with tickets and ban him from soliciting money from our community. He is a "violent sex predator". This scumbag has audacity. GET RID OF THIS LOSER FROM OUR CITY STREETS.

 's picture

There is a day

There is a day care/montessori less then a mile from this walmart, someone needs to remove him if he a known sex offender

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Having worked with a bad

Having worked with a bad back for over twenty years I can honestly say that I would be hard pressed to stand day after day holding a sign. Pain is a part of life. Get over it. learn to live with it like I did, it's not pleasant but life goes on.

Now for his rap sheet, I guess it kind of tells his life story.

Mike Miles's picture

You are sick!!!

You are sick!!!

Melissa  Dunn's picture

This is too bad really.

This is too bad really. Economic times are tough and its hard for anyone to find a job or do some kind of work. I think part of being a human being is having some compassion and a little more understanding... but all too often people are just too quick to judge. Unfortunately for sex offenders that little thing called 'privacy' doesn't exist no matter how much of an outstanding citizen they may be. I agree that there are some that are high-risk and may not have got the right kind of help. That doesn't entitle anyONE to violate their privacy by posting their personal information, exact addresses where they live, or exact work addresses. This only heightens their risk to be physically attacked or harassed. All sex offenders are treated the same and there is no biased when it comes down to the law/sex offender registry. No matter what we do as a society, no matter the precautions we take, no matter what we do to violate another person's privacy... its still going to happen by other people, in another place, in another city. I know its all hard for you all to believe, but there are some out there that don't re-offend. One of the best ways and getting them help-whether it be giving a panhandler money till he gets by to rightfully be on social security because of a physical disability, hiring them-so that they can be working class citizens and not have more stresses, and housing them (in our cities) or our towns to give them a chance at life... all in the sake of making of increasing the possibility statisticallly that some don't re-offend.

Yes, call me crazy-go right ahead. However, I know first hand because I am a SURVIVOR (of sexual abuse, rape, and even sexual harassment). I takes a lot of guts to forgive and let go. There is nothing more empowering and NO ONE from SJ who wants to make a rude comment back to me, or society, or anyONE else can take that away from me.

Melissa  Dunn's picture

No, no honey-I am a

No, no honey-I am a SURVIVOR, not a victum. =]

 's picture

The difference between a

The difference between a victim and a survivor is, a victim will be victimized for the rest of their life. Either by their own hand or that of others. A survivor is someone that takes what happened to them, uses it to benefit and help others and.....THEN MOVES ON! Not blaming others for their lives!

 's picture

The Sun Journal has every

The Sun Journal has every right to post his "sexual offender history". It is a matter of public record you moron. He has been doing this panhandling for a very long time now. I'm sure that he has plenty of money! When he states that he could make money with burgularies but he can't because of his back, how the heck can he stand out there all day and beg for money? After all, he has a bad back. WTF

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

You can forgive all you

You can forgive all you want. I've worked around the system long enough to know that predators do not rehabilitate. What this guy needs is a short drop and a sudden stop.

It is the undauntable thought, my friend. The one that says, "I'm right!" ~Bobby Sands

 's picture

I saw that guy at the corner

I saw that guy at the corner of Lisbon & Main last week!

 's picture

I work in Augusta & saw him

I work in Augusta & saw him there on a daily basis for months. When I saw him in Auburn a couple of weeks ago I was so angry. Stop using your apartment fire to make a living!! I know plenty of people who have lost HOUSES who have CHILDREN & can pull it together! Excuses...excuses.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Helping people in need is

Helping people in need is our duty and obloigation. Unfortunately we do not always have the resources and time to check and see if the person requesting help is truly in need or a con artist. As mentioned in other letters if this person can stand and hold a sign for hours on end he can find work in construction doing same. I consider such beggars con artists. This is why we have groups such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, our churches, and the local government welfare office as well as the disability insurance. The fact he has been denied disability may well mean he is not really disabled. $30 in 20 minutes and tax free doesn't sound all bad an income for the work expanded here. It is unfortunate though because that money could be put to better use helping the truly needy. Next time a panhandler is seen, this story should come to mind. Panhandling is not a profession we should want to encourage.

 's picture

He made $20 in 20 minutes,

He made $20 in 20 minutes, therefore it equals $90 per hour! That's insane! I know that he probably doesn't get that all the time, and probably got it because of the newspaper standing there questioning him. There should be a limit to how long someone could stand there, if at all! This should be against the law! If this guy keeps doing it and getting away with it, how much longer before there are people with their own stories on every busy street corner. If he is making that much money after standing out there for months, and his wife is getting paid bi-weekly they must have PLENTY of money to get another apartment. Hopefully the people of Lewiston/Auburn will STOP giving immediately and give to the local charities, like soup kitchens and shelters. To top this all off, this panhandler doesn't even have to pay taxes!

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

Looks like I'll be buying a

Looks like I'll be buying a few extra tomatoes next time I go to Wal Mart. Anybody with me? A little pedophile target practice?

It is the undauntable thought, my friend. The one that says, "I'm right!" ~Bobby Sands

To shepman81: the point of

To shepman81: the point of the article is to show the guy is a SHAM & NOT to give this guy $$$ & if you DON'T watch it he may slide your wallet. I mean what a perfect place to set up @ Wal-Mart where a lot of people congregate ...he could slide your wallet & their goes your credit cards & possibly your identity if the guy is that bright.

Sally Theriault's picture

The real purpose of this

The real purpose of this article is to warn us of yet another sexual offender in our area. I hope all that read this never give this deviant any food or money because he doesn't deserve it. He commited the most heinous of crimes and that was a sexual crime on a child. I hope the police finally get him out of our area. I have absolutely no sympathy for this guy and hope he goes straight to h***!

GARY SAVARD's picture

I have passed by this guy

I have passed by this guy quite a few times since he started camping at the Wal-mart entrance in Auburn. I have not given him a dime, and will not going forward. In Maine of all places, whre people move to for the easy public assistance, if you can't qualify for help, it's highly likely you don't really need it.

Linda  Daigle's picture

I am glad they wrote this

I am glad they wrote this story, and had contacted the Sun Journal at one point to dig a little deeper. This guy does a brisk business between his shopping cart getting stuffed and the cash that gets handed to him. I was leaving Wal-Mart a few weeks ago and four cars ahead of me were handing him money, and another time people were handing him bags of food on their way out, he didn't look too tortured. I wanted to know what the truth was, and I am sure others do too. I think I will wait for the Salvation Army buckets to appear and continue to donate to the shelters in the area instead of handing out money to strangers with signs.

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